Friday, December 15, 2006

Airtel or AirHell...

This has to be a long one…

My agony began with taking a connection from Airtel in Jan 2005, when I moved to a new city and a new employer. As expected, I didn’t have a permanent address on the first day in the new city – so the Airtel executive (or was he a Airtel DSA… don’t remember) who used to visit our office (an Tech company in Bangalore) assured me that a letter from office was good enough to get a connection. Good… and I had a connection in no time, which I was paying for directly through ECS from my own account. However, this is where the issue began. Unknowingly, the connection was recorded by Airtel as ‘company owned’ connection – even though they had a direct ECS paying for it. And my name would appear only as a “user:” in the bills. Fine… not unless I wanted to get any change of service done. So, each time I needed to change a plan, activate or deactivate roaming, ask for a duplicate bill etc, they would force me to get the company executive to send this request – pretty painful.

And apparently the Airtel guy had done this quick fix to lots of other employees in my office to snare in quick customers. So – our office requested Airtel to fix this issue enmass. As a result a camp was held in our office on May 19th 2006. Great !!! But little did I realize that they had again sent a DSA – who cared only about selling new connections that day. The DSA ‘Raghav’ from InformAcc (Airtel) collected all my documents (address, identity proof, new ECS activations, salary proof for waiver of deposits, photograph etc) – and I was assured that the change of ownership of my existing number would be done in no time.

Weeks passed… months passed… Still no change…

DSA Dance

I kept calling Raghav – and he assured me that he has submitted the documents to Airtel office in Bannerghatta, Bangalore – and it would soon be done. Umpteen calls to Airtel call centre didn’t give a solution either.

Finally, one day in June 2006, Airtel says they have no got the documents at all – and I need to resubmit. Why? God knows… I try to call InformAcc and they say Raghav is no more with them – and its not their headache what he did to my documents. I raised requests with Airtel to ask to see if my documents were misused – they say they don’t know…they can’t help?

I was finally forced to resubmit fresh set documents to Airtel for the change of ownership – but neither Airtel nor InformAcc has so far come back with an answer on what happened to my earlier set of documents. I wonder if I should go and file a FIR against this – lest Raghav (who is nowhere to be traced now) should have misused my documents.

Airtel shrugs off any responsibility of its own DSA partners.

Wonder what I as a customer should do next time you have to deal with another DSA – whether telecom service provider, a bank or any other agency? Maybe I should ask for a copy of personal identity proof (voter id, DL, ration card etc) in addition to seeing his company ID – before dealing with the person.

Customer Service

Funny name for no-service… It should be called Customer harassment service. During the course of this issue and even later (issues didn’t end with the conversion) I must have talked to about 50 Airtel customer ‘service’ executives over the 121 call centre. I have talked to all kinds of agents – umpteen Preeti’s/Sanjay’s/Vanitha’s/Santosh’s/Ajay/Vijay and who not – and each time having to repeat the story of my agony. Having put several service requests and quoting the service ticket numbers “9105867/9380722/10217862” not-withstanding…

Sending emails to the doesn’t help either – because for each such mail you promptly get an automated response assuring you

“Thank you for writing to us. We will revert to you within 24 hours.”

But these “24 hours” in Airtel time can mean 24 months too… And it’s so frustrating to see this email response – when the complaint itself is that my previous complaints haven’t been responded to/addressed so far even after weeks.

I have repeatedly replied ‘No’ to the SMS customer satisfaction query – but did Airtel ever bother to take note. Never!!!

Backend Front-End… Agony to no end…

Wonder if you have seen the Airtel subscriber registration form. A pink coloured form which you need to fill when applying for a new connection. I was made to fill it again even though mine was not a new connection. Fine – no arguments…

So I filled the form and handed it over to the new DSA (Deepak) who came to pick it up from my office – and gave him all the documents (id/address proofs, cheque/ECS etc) and attached a photograph in the top right hand corner of the form – exactly as per the space given. The space in the form is for a stamp size photograph and I duly complied.

A week later, Deepak returned demanding a bigger (passport size instead of stamp size) photograph. When I demanded to know why they couldn’t honour what they had asked for in the form in first place – he had a simple reason “Backend people are not accepting stamp size. Doesn’t matter what the form specifies”

What is this ‘backend’ people – are they some Airtel agency… something TRAI set up. If its Airtel people, why don’t they see what the form has. Why don’t they change the form instead and provide a bigger space…

As expected – Deepak had no answer – neither did any of Vanitha’s over the call centre.

Privacy Doomed!!!

So – I finally did get my number converted to self-owned (yeah!! But again 6 weeks after the fresh set of documents and fresh bigger photograph was given to them).

But Airtel unilaterally chose to disable my national roaming etc – without caring to inform me – leaving me stranded during a visit out of Bangalore.

My web account access (to portal) was also suddenly disabled – weeks after the conversion. More than a dozen service requests raised with 121 are still unaddressed. I can’t imagine why it takes umpteen days to just reset a password. The “Send an SMS ‘web password’ to 121” method has given me “sorry – unable to process this request. Try again later” response several dozen times.

To top it all, after I lost it once and demanded they activate the access right away – I received an email apologizing for not having given me the billing information (When did I ask that?) and enclosed 3 Airtel bills in pdf format (no password). I was shocked to find that these were billing details of some hapless Airtel customer “Mr Guhan Kumar” resident of Malleshpalya, Bangalore (994xxxx792). I can now easily mess up Mr. Guhan’s happiness – by playing with his data. After all, now I know his billing address, account number, phone number…all that’s needed. Don’t worry…I don’t intend doing any funny thing.

Airtel has rewarded me with the full knowledge of what calls Mr Guhan has made right from Sept 2006… not that I know who Mr Guhan is – or care to know. I actually feel sorry for him and all unknowing customers like me – whose personal information is being ill-treated by shabby customer ‘harassment’ executives in Airtel.

On receiving these pdf bills of Mr Guhan (and still not getting the web portal access I had asked for) – I shot back a strongly worded email to – and here is a snapshot of the standard so-called apology I got back.

Dear Mr. (my name),

Thank you for contacting Airtel contact center.

With reference to your e-mail dated 14/12/06 expressing concern over receiving wrong bills, at the outset we regret for the inconvenience caused to you in this regard. We would like to assure you that, we at Airtel are committed to providing you with the highest levels of customer service. To maintain this service parameter, we ensure strict adherence to protecting our customer?s privacy. All information pertaining to our customer database is highly confidential and we have not at any time shared any of our customer details save for information required by any other persons.

We realize that this situation must have greatly inconvenienced you. We are a customer centric organization and as such would want every interaction you have with us to be a pleasant one.

We would also like to inform you that necessary action has been taken and the same would not recur in the future.

On rare occasions, like experienced by you, we fully recognize the shortcoming and take the responsibility to provide you with superior personalized service.

We take this opportunity to assure you of better services in the future. It?s our privilege to have you as our customer and look forward to a long association with you.

Should you require any further clarification or assistance, please reply to us via email at or fax us on 9845500121 or 9845600121.

We value your association with Airtel.

Warm regards,


Customer Support Service

(Underlining emphasis is mine…)

The lines underlined so much belie the facts… they don’t give a damn. If they really did, was an apology sent to Mr Guhan as well. I bet not…

The claim of being a customer centric organization made me laugh… and worry at the same time. Worried – because I don’t know who all have been given my earlier billing details.

I actually called up Mr Guhan and alerted him of how Airtel had compromised him…and guess what, he was already pissed off with many other issues he was facing with them.

I still wonder if it was any use alerting – after all there are probably scores of such compromised customers out there…Its the Service Provider who needs to wake up...

By the way, I am still waiting for my web access!!!


Vishakha said...

Same here!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Here too!